Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New-home sizes set record as recession’s effects wear off

If you thought the housing bust would have a lasting impact on the types of homes we are building in this country, guess again.
Homes being constructed nationwide continue to grow larger, with more bedrooms and bathrooms and extra garage spaces.
The average house built in the U.S. last year had 2,524 square feet. That’s the biggest yet, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
“This is the third consecutive increase we have seen in the average size of single-family homes,” builders association researcher Rose Quint told housing industry members meeting in Las Vegas this week. “It’s higher than it was in 2007, when it peaked at 2,499 square feet.”
After reducing sizes during the worst of the recession, builders are again supersizing their houses. More conservative buyer tastes brought on by tough times just didn’t last.
The average new-home size has grown by about 500 square feet since the late 1980s. And it is up a whopping 764 square feet since 1979.
More than 40 percent of the houses built last year had four or more bedrooms. And about 30 percent had three or more bathrooms, researchers found.
Almost 20 percent of new houses now have three or more garage spaces.
“On average, houses were bigger and had more square footage and were more expensive,” Quint said.
Part of that has to do with who is buying new houses. Tight credit restrictions and anemic income growth have made it more difficult for first-time and moderate-income Americans to get that new house.
“As a result, what was built last year reflects the preferences of those who did have credit — in other words the wealthier, better-off buyers,” Quint said. “The number of baths is related to household income.
“The more money they make, the more bathrooms they want.”
Good to know that rich people are clean folks.
Regardless of income, almost every new-home buyer wants to save money on utilities.
Energy-saving features were two of the top three “must haves” on buyers’ shopping lists for new houses, the builders say.
“The No. 1 thing is they want is energy efficiency,” Quint said. “Nine out of 10 buyers would rather buy a highly energy efficient home with lower utility bills.
“Seventy-three percent say utility costs will influence their next home purchase.”
New-home buyers on average say they will pay almost $7,100 more for a house that saves them $1,000 a year in utilities.
And while two-thirds of prospective buyers say they want an environmentally friendly house, in the next breath they say no to paying more for it.
To save money on that new house, potential buyers say they would opt for a smaller lot or a smaller house and would settle for a location that’s not as close to shopping and entertainment — whatever it takes to save a few bucks on the purchase price.
But that doesn’t mean they will give up fancy features or settle for shoddy construction.
“What homebuyers are not willing to embrace are less expensive materials in order to make their homes more affordable,” Quint said.
Steve Brown